Exped posed a few questions to our friend Graham Zimmerman. Here are his answers:
EXPED: You just spent the past couple of months in one of the great mountain ranges of the world. How did it feel to get back home?
GZ: It feels fabulous to be home. It's funny, I was feeling totally satisfied while in basecamp; healthy honed and focused on the task at hand but as soon as we finished on K6 and started the process of going home I was ready to be there. We wrapped up on K6 on the 21st of August and I didn't arrive on my front porch till the night of the 2nd of September. Epic travel. The amazing thing to think about is the fact that compared to expeditions 50-100 years ago our travel time was very quick.
EXPED: When you are relaxing now, what memories are most powerful?
GZ: The things that come to mind are the views of the Karakoram. For someone who is inspired by mountains, seeing mountains like that is a spectacular experience.
EXPED: Changi Tower was unclimbed? And K6 West had seen only one ascent? And your route on K6 was a new one? Correct?
GZ: Correct indeed!
EXPED: What did you learn on this trip?
GZ: Oh man. A LOT. Being on a trip with someone like Steve Swenson is an amazing learning opportunity and I did my best to learn all that I could. I think that one of the biggest things was learning the patience that it takes to climb on these larger mountains. Steve is extremely graceful with things like bad weather and heavy loads. It is super inspiring. He is also very realistic with his expectations. These are all things I tried my best to learn from him and those mountains, among many other things.
EXPED: For all those of us who have undergone ACL surgery, we've got to ask - how did your new knee hold up?
GZ: I am so happy to be able to say that it crushed. I worked really hard to be prepared for this expedition and all the work paid off big time. To ensure this I was continuing that work in basecamp by keeping up a heavy yoga and rolling routine (upwards of three sessions a day). On route I had no issues, I felt very strong and very well put together. I owe a lot of thanks to those who helped me with the recovery and worked with me to make sure I would be ready.
EXPED: Did you forget anything important on this trip?
GZ: Nope. Packing for a trip like this takes a lot of time but it is all worth it when you get to basecamp and have all that you need for 6 weeks of climbing and recovering.
EXPED: Shortly after we began working together, a little over a year ago, you began collaborating with our pack designers. The result of this is the soon-to-be-released Black Ice, a new-school minimalist climbing pack, which you used in Pakistan. Happy with your creation?
GZ: I think that the best thing one can say about a pack for alpinism is that there isn't anything noticably wrong with it. That was absolutely the case with the Black Ice 45, which I used on both routes. It held everything I needed, didn't get in the way of my climbing, was light and didn't break. In short it totally kicked ass and I am really happy with the work we did on it! :)
EXPED: We know you're a fan of coffee. How was it in Pakistan?
GZ: Shit. This is one of the major reasons I am happy to be home. Today I have been plugged into the espresso machine all day and have been loving it.
EXPED: How did the climbing on these peaks compare to your previous experiences?
GZ: Steep rock, ice and snow are always the same in some ways and different in others. While the climbing was certainly hard, these were not the most technically difficult peaks I've climbed. But the overall effort that we placed into climbing them was very high. Just getting to Changi Tower was totally epic, with steep passes and epic icefalls. This, combined with the altitude, made for some serious effort and the hardest I have ever worked for getting on top of peaks.
EXPED: Do you feel that your mix of training, physical and otherwise, was right for these big mountains?
GZ: I do. Training is something with which I am very intentional. For this trip I spent a lot of time working on my endurance, climbing lots of pitches, running lots of miles and doing lots of reps in the weight room. Training like this takes a lot of time but it totally paid off. I felt fantastic on top of K6. It gets me really stoked to try higher harder objectives.
EXPED: What's next on the agenda, this winter and beyond?
GZ: Sport climbing :) I am going to take it is easy here in town for a little while and then get back to planning the next adventure. For me personally it is really important to take time off after trips like this to make sure that my body and mind are both running well. As for the next trip... thinking about things a little closer afield for the next 12 months. Looking at objectives in Alaska and Canada. But getting back to the Karakoram is on the 2 year plan in permanent ink.
EXPED: You are living in Bend, Oregon. Can we pay you a visit for some outdoor fun and perhaps some Oregon beer?
GZ: Few things would make me more happy :)
EXPED: What non-essential items do you take on a trip like this? A favorite teddy bear perhaps to help you rest and sleep peacefully at night?
GZ: Unfortunately no teddy bears :) but there are a numbed of creature comforts that I bring. Books and music are some of the main things that I bring. I also tend to bring a few art supplies. On this trip I had a very good time using different packaging and boxes as canvasses.
EXPED: In talks around the Exped office, you always mention how light and fast you are able to go. Whether it's sharing a sleeping bag in the "Shiver Bivy" or baring it all in "Fast and Light" you keep it reasonable and safe with minimal gear. What tips do you have to help others understand the balance between going light enough but still keeping you and your partners safe?
GZ: Hmm...great question. The balance is different for every climber and for every route. I like to break down my climbing kit into categories - sleeping, eating/hydrating, climbing and emergency. I will break down just what I need and bring it down to the bare minimum that I feel like I can carry and still be safe as well as have a reasonable chance of success. Each piece of gear will be scrutinized and either justified or left in camp. With that process I am able to make sure that I have everything I need and nothing I don't. With today's ultralight technology this will generally mean that my pack is between 15 and 25 lbs, allowing me to climb very efficiently with it on, which is just what I need!
EXPED: Trips like this don't just happen, they take hard work and dedication. Aside from getting training and preparation, what one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring alpinist to make trips like this happen?
GZ: Be focused with your goals. Don't be afraid of failure. Commit to the task, do everything you can to get it done while staying safe. If you fail, try again.